June 17, 2011

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The blessings that come from books and reading

Shirley Vogler MeisterIn recent months, I have been giving many books from my collection to friends, family members and charities. My husband, Paul, also has parted with some books, but it is difficult for both of us. The process is slow and tedious.

I assume that most Catholics who enjoy The Criterion are avid readers, but then I could be wrong.

There are so many electronic ways to know what is going on in our world that reading might possibly go by the wayside—although I pray that does not happen. Holding and reading a magazine, newspaper or book could eventually become passé, but I hope not!

Recently, during a bad storm in

Indianapolis, a neighbor’s huge tree came down and covered half of the front of our home. Much of the area near our parish had no power for several hours. We went to bed early.

But at one point before bedtime, I decided to continue reading a book that I had started a few days before. I did this by flashlight, silently blessing my husband for keeping our home safety equipment in good shape. That was not the first time I read in the dark, and it won’t be the last.

Recently, while going through books, I came across some columns that I had written for the then-named “Personally Speaking” column in The Indianapolis Star. The one that caught my eye, from April 19, 1988, was “A Bibliophile’s tribute to books and reading.” That section of The Star is now called “Conversations.”

I began the column by quoting something that my husband said about me. “If you lived to be 200, you couldn’t read all the books you own.”

I responded with a laugh, “Perhaps not, but I’m trying.”

At another place in the piece, I wrote, “It’s wise to remember what humorist-novelist Mark Twain said: ‘The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.’ ”

I also quoted poet-essayist Mary Worley Monague, who said in 1753, “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting,” and Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle, who lived from 1795-1881, and said “the best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity.”

Actually, if I weren’t a longtime reader, I surely wouldn’t even be writing this column. How well I remember my parents reading to me, and my mother walking with me to a library in St. Louis to take home books.

But even earlier than that, I learned from Mom to use the previous day’s newspaper and circle a different letter of the alphabet each day. I happily credit my parents and the Catholic nuns who taught and encouraged me through my younger years.

Thank God, I had a wonderful childhood.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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